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Cyberspace regulator meets the press
Updated: 2006-02-17 19:45

New York Times:I have two questions. First, in your reply to the aforementioned question on the Yahoo case, you denied there was such a case, and that nobody has ever been arrested merely for publishing his/her comments on the Internet. However, this information from Yahoo shows that a male citizen in Sichuan Province was arrested for his comments published on the Internet, and was charged for subversion. The most important evidence is that his comments were published on the Internet. Do you have any different understanding of this case? The second question is about the definition of "harmful information". Is there any difference between the definitions of "harmful information" as is set by the traditional media, including the newspapers, magazines and TV and new media, including blogs and BBS on the Internet?

Liu:My point on the Yahoo case is clear: nobody has been arrested merely for publishing his/her comments on the Internet. As to the details of this case, I believe the court is much clearer of them. I don't think it is logical to judge the case based only on what you've said.

With regard to the definitions of harmful information, there are clear definitions in different countries. I studied the US Child Online Protection Act, UK's defamation laws, Germany's Information and Communication Services Act (Multimedia Law, das Multimediagesetz der Bundesrepublik Deutschland) and related laws in France. These laws prompt me to think that there are basic common standards regarding what kind of information can be described as harmful, whether online or offline. And I have noticed that there is such a formulation: a category of information is harmful if the majority of normal people think it is harmful according to normal standards.

Washington Post: I would like to ask you a question about browsing the Internet. I know that most foreign media websites can be accessed in China, but there are still some that are not accessible. Is it because that these websites provide some harmful information? I'd like to know how the Chinese government decides which websites can be accessed and which can not. Is there a list? And which department decides this? Lately, some Chinese were very concerned about a textbook website which they could no longer get access to. I would like to know whether this website is also on that list of the Chinese government. Is it because it had carried some harmful information?

Liu:A few foreign websites cannot be fully accessed in China. The reason is that some foreign websites publish some content that is against Chinese laws. A Chinese Internet service provider (ISP) would follow the laws to implement some technical measures on these websites. This is fully understandable and also necessary. As you mentioned, there are no problems accessing many of the better-known websites from around the world, including well-known media websites, from China. Those not accessible are mainly the websites which carry pornographic or terrorist content.

In fact, Chinese citizens have found it much easier to exchange information and communicate with the outside in recent years. To ensure a smooth connection between the Chinese Internet and the international Internet, the bandwidth of the Chinese Internet for international connection was increased from 2,799 Mbit in 2000 to 136,100 Mbit at the end of last year, a growth of 48 times in five years.

We have our own standard to determine which websites should not be permitted to release information in China. This standard was set according to Chinese laws and regulations. We didn't set an Internet policy for a particular country or for a particular website. There is only one standard. Our information is transparent. Early last year, the website of China Reporting Center of Illegal and Unhealthy Information published a list of blocked foreign pornographic websites. This list was later taken away from the site, because the public was afraid that if these websites were made known, it would help and encourage some people to gain access to their harmful information.

There are three basic facts that no one can deny: First, people in China can use the Internet freely. Second, the number of foreign websites which cannot be fully accessed in China is very few and limited. Third, the connection between China's Internet and the international Internet has improved tremendously.

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